Friday, October 24, 2008

The Master Builder


By Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Frank McGuinness. Dir. Ciaran O'Reilly. Irish Repertory Theatre. (CLOSED)

Critics are reverent but mostly disappointed with Irish Rep's revival of Ibsen's late morality play about an ambitious architect and the women in his life. Most critics blamed James Naughton's lackluster lead performance for the production's stiffness, while almost every critic except Vareity's Sam Thielman complained that Frank McGuinness' new adaptation grated on the ears with its mix of contemporary ("push comes to shove") and old-fashioned ("don't tarry") language.

Variety B
(Sam Thielman) It's fitting that Irish Rep should choose to revive The Master Builder in a clever, conversational new translation by Irish playwright and poet Frank McGuinness. It's just a shame the production is so deadly serious...Naughton receives top billing, but the two-time Tony winner (both for musical roles) is somewhat out of his depth, unable to provide what O'Reilly won't or can't. Parry, with whom Naughton shares the stage most often, is in similar shape. What pleasures there are to be had come from the supporting cast...It's a production with no shortage of well-observed individual moments, but no real guiding hand to provide some much-needed urgency.

Curtain Up B-
(Elyse Sommer) Surprisingly—and disappointingly—the dashing hat and coat costume designer Linda Fisher had provided for his entrance fits [James] Naughton to a tee, but this complex role is a far more imperfect fit...In McGuiness's version this play from Ibsen's final years is indeed quite accessible and with fewer grating inconsistencies than most previous translations...Unlike Mr. Naughton's too contained performance, [Charlotte] Parry errs in the other direction. Her Hilde never gets off the emotional, wild child roller coaster.

TheaterMania C+
(David Finkle) Given the tentative grasp this Ibsen opus has on the contemporary imagination, O'Reilly's often awkwardly staged production does not help matters. Nor does the usually reliable Eugene Lee's third-act set in which chairs and tables are stacked upstage as if in a storage facility...Moreover, although [James] Naughton has that famed deep and resonant voice, he fumbled his lines repeatedly—which may be one reason why the other actors' rhythms seem thrown off. On the other hand, [Charlotte] Parry and [Kristin] Griffith slip into their roles as if donning fashionable gloves—even if the play they're in is no longer in fashion.

Back Stage C+
(David A. Rosenberg) The evening fails to ignite despite yeoman work by its hard-working though loose-fitting cast...James Naughton is a vigorous Solness whose wary eyes betray the insecurity and guilt beneath his outward show of control. As the two women in his life, Kristin Griffith is a plaintive Aline, while Charlotte Parry is a fervent, conniving Hilde.

NY Times C-
(Charles Isherwood) Sadly, the woodwork doesn't stop at the furnishings in this stiff production of Ibsen's complex play, directed by Ciaran O'Reilly and employing a starchy new adaptation by the Irish playwright Frank McGuinness. The evening's leading performer, James Naughton, seems ill at ease negotiating the daunting psychological territory of the title role, a man possessed by demons of guilt, doubt, egoism and ambition...For long stretches—particularly in the early going—you get the impression that all the performers are uneasily aware that they are performing in a classic of the remote 19th-century theater.

Time Out NY C-
(Diane Snyder) In CiarĂ¡n O'Reilly's morass of a production, which squanders a lucid Frank McGuinness adaptation, Parry splendidly evokes Hilde's contradictory spunky-child, sensible-woman nature, and Kristin Griffith quietly captures the chilly demeanor of Solness's wife. But Naughton struggles to connect with the megalomaniacal master builder and his despair, seeming less lost in character than just plain lost.

Variety B 10; Curtain Up B- 9; TheaterMania C+ 8; Back Stage C+ 8; NY Times C- 7; Time Out NY C- 7; TOTAL: 49 / 6 = 8.16 (C+)

No comments: